Death in France
This guide has been prepared in collaboration with France based English speaking volunteer group Bereavement Support Network (BSN). BSN helps English speaking residents throughout France to manage their bereavement or terminal illness. You can contact BSN by mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via their website at Bereavement Support Network.
- Registering a Death
- Bank Accounts
- Spouses's Pension
- Bereavement Grant
- UK Pensions/Benefits
- Income Tax
- Vehicle Sale/Transfer
If repatriation is required to the UK, a relative or formally appointed representative must instruct a funeral parlour in the UK and France.
Funeral parlours in both countries will need to liaise and so it is advisable not to arrange a date for the funeral in the UK before all the required procedures are completed.
If the deceased is insured, contact the insurance company who will make the arrangements.
Some credit cards also provide insurance cover. Ask for precise details of the total cost of the return journey of the hearse, or the cost of air transport.
If the death is to be recorded at the General Registrar Office in London, contact the local British Consul.
Registration of the death in the UK is not compulsory; however, it is advised in case there are later, unforeseen problems with insurance companies or legal firms.
It is much simpler in terms of cost and bureaucracy to take ashes back to the UK rather than a body. It is possible to send ashes through the post, drive them back or take them on an airline.
In all cases, you will need a certificate from the crematorium, a copy of the death certificate and permission from the prefecture. The funeral parlour will assist in obtaining the relevant permissions and ensuring the suitability of the urn.
You should also check with the airline and UK customs to check any procedures for example some airlines may insist the ashes are placed in the hold rather than taken as hand luggage.
When a body is repatriated to England or Wales from France, the funeral parlour will take care of the formalities including obtaining a ‘laissez-passer’ from the prefecture where the death occurred. They will also need the certificat de décès, a certificate provided by a doctor that the body has no contagious diseases and the authorisation from the mairie for the closure of the coffin. They will also need the deceased’s passport, birth certificate and/or marriage certificate. Some prefectures may demand a certificate from the police confirming that they were present when the coffin is closed. The body must be embalmed and the coffin be of a specific type for transportation.
If the death occurred in straightforward circumstances there is no requirement for an inquest. If the body is to be cremated in the UK the Home Office will issue a cremation order. In Scotland, it is the Scottish Office which gives permits for cremation. There is no equivalent order for burials.
A coroner will only hold an inquest or postmortem examination if the death was not natural or the cause unknown. However, as cause of death is not stated on a French death certificate, the coroner may require a postmortem even if an autopsy has already been performed in France, as he will not have information from, or access to, the French judicial file.
The Guides to France are published for general information only.
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